Parade on water

A boat displays Christmas lights as it motors along the Beaufort waterfront during a past Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla. This year’s event, named to a “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” list, will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the city Saturday, Dec. 1. (Dylan Ray photo)

The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla is set for Saturday, Dec. 1. This year, the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla has been named a “Top 20 Event in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society for December 2018.

“We are excited that the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla has received this prestigious recognition from a major regional tourism organization,” said Susan Sanders, president of the Beaufort Development Association. “It will be great for Beaufort and the entire Crystal Coast.”

The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla began Saturday, Dec. 5, 1992, with seven boats cruising down the Beaufort waterfront.

William Prentice, former manager of the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, was in one of those seven boats.

“We gathered at the end of Radio Island and circled there for a while,” Mr. Prentice said. “When it came time to start, John Warrington peeled off and the rest of us fell in line taking his lead.

“It was clear and calm that evening and the crowd along the waterfront was a bit sparse, compared to recent flotillas, but still a good gathering as we made our way down Taylors Creek,” he said.

That first year the judges viewed the flotilla from the upstairs porch of the Dock House. The awards ceremony was held in the N.C. Maritime Museum’s Harborside Annex, next door to the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. The awards were gift certificates donated by several Beaufort businesses.

Twenty-six years later, the tradition continues.

This year’s flotilla will feature boats, yachts, oars, kayaks and commercial vessels decorated for the season.

The decorated boats can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on the Morehead City waterfront and at 6:15 p.m. on the Beaufort waterfront.

All decorated boats are judged and prizes for excellence and creativity are awarded at the festive Awards Party after the flotilla in the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. Cash prizes will be awarded.

Looking back

at previous flotillas

In 1993, the Morehead Beaufort Yacht Club started sponsoring the “Annual Christmas Boat Parade” with prizes donated by Beaufort retailers and restaurants. A tradition began with free dockage for the 15 boats in the parade provided by the Beaufort Town Docks, support that continues each year.

The YP 701, a U.S. Marine Corps yard-patrol boat of the Aerial/Surface Target Department served as the judge’s platform and was open for tours during the day. The Carteret County News-Times became the media sponsor in 1993 and has helped spread the word about this popular holiday tradition ever since.

In 1995, the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority came aboard as co-sponsor and the name of the event changed to the “Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla.” The East Carteret High School chorus provided Christmas carols on the Beaufort boardwalk and the judges were in the watercraft center, with the awards party at the museum.

It was in 1995 that the art by Joe Purifoy was first used on the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla program and is still used.

Eastern Offset Printing has provided ongoing printing services as a sponsor.

In 1996, proceeds from the flotilla started going to support the Junior Sailing Program administered by the Friends of the N.C. Maritime Museum.

The Friends of the N.C. Maritime Museum took the lead role in organizing the flotilla in 2003 and brought on WITN as a media sponsor with footage of past flotillas airing on television throughout the region ever since.

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to bring a vessel to lead the flotilla and Tow Boat US provides on-the-water assistance.

“The Flotilla has turned into a major holiday tradition for the region,” said Brent Creelman, operations manager for the Friends of the N.C. Museum. “We’ve had tremendous support over the years.”

This year, the 34 Degrees North Restaurant at the new Beaufort Hotel has come onboard as a sponsor of the event. The hotel and restaurant are scheduled to open in the Spring 2019.

Now in its 26th year, the flotilla traditionally attracts 20-30 vessels each year. Last year, there were 35 participating boats.

With the support of merchants and restaurants in Carteret County, the flotilla has established itself as a holiday tradition for many of the participating crews with vessels returning year after year.

How to participate

Boats may register to participate by mail, by calling 252-504-7740, or until noon Dec. 1, by visiting the N.C. Maritime Museum Store. The cost is $25.

Schedule of events

In addition to the flotilla, other areas around the county will have special events. Here is a schedule:

•    8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.: Breakfast with Santa at the History Museum of Carteret County in Morehead City. Reservations are required by calling 252-727-1921.

•    11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Santa on the Beaufort waterfront.

•    Noon: Cut-off for early flotilla registration. Drop off at the N.C. Maritime Museum store. Participation with registration presented at the awards party is acceptable.  

•    1 p.m.: Beaufort Christmas parade.

•    5-6 p.m.: Christmas music, refreshments and Santa can be found at Jaycee Park in downtown Morehead City.

•    5:30 p.m.: The Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held on the Beaufort waterfront.

•    5:30 p.m.: The flotilla starts along the Morehead City waterfront.

•    6 p.m.: Morehead City will host the community Christmas tree lighting at Jaycee Park.

•    6:15 p.m.: The flotilla arrives in Beaufort.

•    7 p.m.: Crew part and awards ceremony will be held at the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, across the street from the museum. This event is sponsored by local restaurants.

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